Fresh uproar over proposed $72m Kilimanjaro cable car project

By APOLINARI TAIRO

When the Tanzanian government announced last March that it had contracted a company to build a cable car on the southern side of Mt Kilimanjaro to Shira Ridge on the Machame route, there was an uproar from mountaineers, expedition companies, tourism investors and environmentalists.

Speaking in Moshi last week, Tanzania’s Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Dr Damas Ndumbaro revived the matter and sparked a fresh round of protests when he said that it was a well-intentioned decision by the government to introduce a cable car to cater for the elderly and tourists with disabilities and to attract more visitors.

Expenditionists, adventure and tour operators from around the world have written to the minister, protesting the planned $72 million cable car project, arguing first and foremost that it will kill the image and prestige of Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest point (5,895 metres) and also one of the prestigious Seven Summits (the world’s highest points on each continent.)

Correspondence from Karl Kobler, the founder and managing director of Aconcagua Vision from Switzerland said that if the cable gets installed, Kilimanjaro would lose its attractiveness and thrill for trekkers and mountaineers.

Free-standing mountain

“I have climbed Mt Everest six times and know from experience why tourists choose Kilimanjaro and Tanzania. It is the pristine landscape of a unique, free-standing mountain . It is a world heritage site,” he said, adding “No cable car ever been built on one of the seven highest mountains. It would be a big financial loss for the tourism industry.”

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Over 56,000 people climb Kilimanjaro annually, spending $50 million. A cable car will most likely affect the revenue stream and livelihood of thousands local people who directly depend on trekking and hiking up Kilimanjaro.

Will Smith, an America-based travel agent said “Such a high-capacity conveyance will urbanise the mountain and disfigure the landscape. Kilimanjaro will lose its reputation as a grand and beautiful wonder, becoming instead a cheap and easy distraction of no consequence.”

The chairman of Tanzania Association of Tour Operators Wilbard Chambulo said cable cars will affect the fragile environment and challenge to climbers.

Mingmar Sherpa, the managing director of Boss Adventure Treks & Expedition based in Kathmandu, Nepal, wrote to the minister that his clients don’t like trekking on mountains with assistance.

However, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa threw his lot with tourism stakeholders arguing last week in Moshi that a cable car will cost the country jobs.

“To dig up the mountain to erect pillars to anchor cable cars, you destroy the vegetation on the mountain,” he said.

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